Healthy Food Policies from a Nursing Perspective

Introduction

The promotion of proper nutrition is one of the most popular topics with US health policymakers these days. Poor diet and obesity have been among the main risk factors of mortality in the US for several years (The US Burden of Disease Collaborators, 2018). Notably, it is crucial to ensure that children across the country have the possibility to eat healthy and high-quality food. A child cannot develop physically and mentally if he or she is not fed properly. That is why policymakers attempt to provide access to healthy food to all US families. This paper examines and evaluates existing policies aimed at providing children, women, and low-income families with healthy food, as presented in the Health Policy Brief by Ascend at the Aspen Institute (2019). The discussion of the practices is conducted from the perspective and experience of a nurse to show that the policies of the US government are mostly beneficial for society.

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The Overview and Evaluation of Existing Policies

Support of Breastfeeding Mothers

The Brief by Ascend at the Aspen Institute (2019) argues that breastfeeding has a positive impact on both children and mothers, and thus, needs to be supported by the authorities (par. 4). According to Krol and Grossman (2018), breastfeeding may result in children’s “improved cognitive performance” and in mothers’ reduction of “psychological and subjective stress” (p. 983). This scientific evidence proves that mothers need to be encouraged to breastfeed their children. I personally believe that it is vital for mothers to maintain close contact with infants during the first months of their lives. In that context, I agree with the suggestions of Ascend at the Aspen Institute (2019, par. 4). It is critical that working mothers receive legal support from the government and are allowed to take breaks for breastfeeding and have access to a specially organized place at their work. I think that mothers should feed infants themselves, but in case they cannot always be with their children, breast milk has to be available in all hospitals. The main goal of policymakers remains to promote breastfeeding among mothers and give an opportunity for personal breastfeeding.

Maximizing Access to Nutrition Programs for Low-Income Families

Children from low-income families often have restricted access to food containing various essential vitamins, and thus, have a big chance of becoming unhealthy. French, Tangney, Crane, Wang, and Appelhans (2019) argue that households with low income, in comparison with more prosperous families, “purchase foods of lower nutritional quality” (p. 6). Therefore, extra efforts in this area are required from policymakers. The Brief by Ascend at the Aspen Institute offers several administrative measures for addressing this problem.

The US government already runs such health-improvement programs as the Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program (WIC) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) on the federal level. Recently, the states were authorized to manage these programs, in part, independently. This was rather a logical decision because different states have distinct levels of poverty, and thus, support programs’ entry requirements. This means that more people who actually need help will be able to participate in these programs. I can also say that the operations of medical institutions vary from state to state. In this case, it is better for society if the programs are run on the state rather than the government level.

Nutrition Education and Improvement for Women and Young Children

In order to tackle obesity and poor diet, which are among the most dangerous threats for the American nation, it critical that children receive instructions about proper nutrition. Potential mothers and children should also be encouraged to purchase and consume healthy products. The Brief by Ascend at the Aspen Institute (2019) suggests that the states need to set the quality and nutrition standards so that people’s meals correspond to “dietary guidelines” of the US Department of Agriculture (para. 6). Moreover, the Brief offers local authorities to subsidize farmers and also provide families with financial support for the purpose of buying fresh food.

Although these programs can benefit society and increase its consumption of healthy food, it seems that they cannot be fully successful without effective nutrition education. As a nurse, I believe that people will not start doing something for their health unless they realize the necessity of this particular action. It seems that policymakers should focus on delivering the right message to people. Some states already run educational programs as a part of SNAP or WIC. It is also a good idea to make these programs in an interactive format, as Alabama did with the application that has some healthy recipes and educational sources. All in all, this last policy initiative also seems feasible to the author.

Conclusion

In this paper, I examined the Health Policy Brief “Healthy Food and Nutrition” by the Ascend at the Aspen Institute. I used my professional nursing experience and scientific evidence to review and evaluate the practices proposed for the policymakers. In general, I agree with every suggestion of the Brief. Authorities need to foster breastfeeding among women as it can benefit both mothers and children. Then, the federal government should delegate the implementation of its programs to local authorities so that they can meet the needs of their states better. Finally, I think that nutritional education is the most crucial policy aimed at changing people’s diets. Taken together, these measures have a chance to contribute to increasing the health of the American nation.

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References

Ascend at the Aspen Institute. (2019). Healthy food and nutrition. Web.

French, A. S., Tangney, C. C., Crane, M. M., Wang, Y. & Appelhans, B. M. (2019). Nutrition quality of food purchases varies by household income: The SHoPPER study. BMC Public Health, 19(1). Web.

Krol, K. M., & Grossman, T. (2018). Psychological effects of breastfeeding on children and mothers. Bundesgesundheitsblatt – Gesundheitsforschung Gesundheitsschutz, 61(8), 977-985.

The US Burden of Disease Collaborators. (2018). The state of US health, 1990-2016: Burden of diseases, injuries, and risk factors among US states. JAMA, 319(14), 1444-1472.

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